After Jake Delhomme was cut and subsequently signed with the Browns, many wondered what Delhomme's legacy with Carolina would be. No question he deserves a special place in our hearts as fans, but what type of recognition should he get from the organization? I'm sure most of us can agree he likely will receive a spot in the Carolina Hall of Honor, along with Sam Mills, Mike McCormack, and the PSL owners, but should his number be retired? This post will look over the pros and cons of retiring #17. And hopefully when I finish, we will have a much clearer picture on the issue.
Delhomme's career with Carolina didn't really start off with a bang. When we brought him in in 2003, we were looking for a potential future QB, or someone to compete with current starter Rodney Peete. However, Delhomme couldn't win the starting job outright in training camp and preseason, and went into the season opener vs Jacksonville second string. However after a depressing first half by Rodney Peete, Delhomme came in, and immediately made his mark. Three scores later, including the winning one on 4th and 11 from the Jacksonville 12 to Ricky Proehl, and a Carolina legend was born.
Delhomme inspired the team and rallied them together, and they responded by rattling off five straight victories, including a thriller against Tampa Bay and a signature OT win over the powerhouse Indianapolis Colts. It wasn't always pretty for Delhomme that year, but he galvanized the team, and could be counted on to pull us through in the tough moments. Eight times that season he led us to the go ahead score in the fourth quarter and OT. And he showed his legendary ability to rebound. After an OT loss to the Michael Vick and the Falcons, where Delhomme's pick six in OT cost them the game, Delhomme responded by QBing the team to six straight wins en route to the Super Bowl.
I'm sure I don't have to remind any of you of that magical playoff run, but for the purpose of the article I'm going to list the accomplishments in brief. 29-10 victory to avenge an earlier loss to the Cowboys at home, 29-23 triple OT thriller in the Edward Jones Dome vs the Rams, 14-3 NFC Championship victory to amend an earlier loss to the Eagles. And of course the 32-29 loss to the Patriots, where Delhomme went throw for throw with Tom Brady. Delhomme's stats for that postseason run, 59 of 102 for 987 yards, 6 TD's, 1 INT, and a 106.1 QB rating. That's an astound 9.7 YPA!!! I can't find records for single season playoff performances, but I'm sure that ranks up with some of the best gunslingers of the past, like Marino, Montana, and Tarkenton.
I'm not going to go as in depth for Delhomme's subsequent seasons as I have 2003. But I believe they speak well for themselves. In his career as a Panther, Delhomme's numbers are as follows; cmp/att, yds, TD, INT, QB rating
2003: 266/449, 3219 yds, 19 TD, 16 INT, 80.6
2004: 310/533, 3886 yds, 29 TD, 15 INT, 87.3
2005: 262/445, 3421 yds, 24 TD, 16 INT, 88.1
2006: 263/431, 2805 yds, 17 TD, 11 INT, 82.6
2007: 55/86, 624 yds, 8 TD, 1 INT, 111.8
2008: 246/414, 3288, 15 TD, 12 INT, 84.7
2009: 178/321, 2015 yds, 8 TD, 18 INT, 59.4
So even if you include his awful 09 season, his numbers still add up to 1580/2679, 19258 yds, 120 TD, 89 INT, and a cmp pct% of 59% (couldn't figure out QB rating). Those numbers aren't stellar, but they aren't enough to keep his number from being retired. What really will make his case is his emotional impact as a QB. He was a born leader, and one of the best with the ball in his hand in the fourth quarter. His 33 fourth quarter TD's as of Sept 21, 2008, led every active QB in the league, including such legends as Brett Favre and Peyton Manning. Another thing going for him is the number 19, that's the amount of fourth quarter comebacks he has at minimum (people definition of a fourth quarter comeback differs, 19 is the bare minimum, whereas I think it could be around 25). He is the type of guy who when in charge of the offense you can never discount. He proved this in 2004, leading us to a 6-2 record after a 1-7 start. He made the Pro Bowl in 2005, and he was the one throwing the passes to Smith his Triple Crown year. Only three wideouts in history have achieved the Triple Crown, Jerry Rice, Sterling Sharpe, and Steve Smith. Rice and Sharpe had Montana and Elway throwing to them, so both Smith and Delhomme are in good company. He showed how valuable to the team he was in 06 and 07 when he missed time due to injury. And even in the death throes of his tenure here, he showed us why we still maintained trust in him.
So if you are a tl;dr person, let me sum it up for you here. Delhomme has been our most successful starting QB by far in every sense of the position. He has had an emotional impact similar to Sam Mills, and his numbers are respectable given his role in our offense. He has the career accolades and big-game success to give it serious consideration. And he has been our most important player for much of the past six years, whose arm we live or die by. In short, his number 17 deserves to be forever enshrined, dedicated to the memory of the man who has done so much for this franchise.
(btw I want to apologize if this seems a little late, I meant to wait a week to gain some perspective, and I ended up waiting a whole lot longer)